Searching For An Avian Mascot

By Ann Hingas

With all the public discussion stirred by the official Indiana University search for a new mascot, I have been impressed by the absence of feathered icons in these deliberations. This is an odious situation that ignores the many values that birds bring to the hero table.

BALD EAGLE: The national symbol is an imposing figure of a bird and would tap those deep wells of patriotism and harness that power for the Hoosiers. On the other hand, there are probably way too many teams with eagle mascots already. We donít want to see a captive eagle or any other kind of raptor being paraded around the sideline of a football game, do we? Sounds pretty good though: The Hoosier Eagle. A great mascot costume is possible.

WILD TURKEY: This wily bird was Benjamin Franklinís choice as our national symbol, and he argued persuasively in its favor. Franklin noted that the Wild Turkey is extremely smart and wary, strong and possessing tremendous endurance at running. It earns its living in a noble manner, by hunting and scratching while the eagle too often is little more than a carrion eater. Wild Turkey being a favorite of IU football fans anyway (you see its picture enshrined on bottles at tailgate parties every game), this would be an excellent choice as mascot. The drawback would be inevitable jokes about the IU and its turkey football team. The mascot costume might be pretty funny.

NORTHERN CARDINAL: Our state bird would be a good choice. Here is a species that exhibits great family values, where Dad helps out around the house and with the kids. They are industrious, have a beautiful song and are among the most strikingly beautiful of all our birds. The drawback is that there are already a flock of cardinal mascots, including one at nearby Louisville. We sure donít want to have a mascot that looks like theirs.

OWL: Now here is an excellent choice. Owls are vigilant and deadly hunters of the night with senses that defy imagination. They are strong, mysterious and endowed in human mythology with wisdom to accompany all those tools of the predator. Just a generic owl instead of a specific variation would probably be best, however.

We wouldnít want to have a Barred Owl, for example, as that might evoke visions of a jailed mascot. Nor would we want to have a Screech Owl, would we? I can only think of one other college team with an owl for a mascot, Baylor, and they might as well be on a different planet so far as Indiana is concerned.. Maybe the U.S. Forest Service could sign over Woodsy Owlís contract to IU, since they forcibly retired Woodsy several years ago. There are no doubt plenty of Woodsy costumes left over in some forest service warehouse that IU could pick up for a song. We could have an entire chorus line of Woodsy Owls, renamed Hoosier Owl, or Whoosie?

WOODPECKER: There are plenty of woodpeckers in southern Indiana, meaning this would certainly be an appropriate mascot. Here is another strong, determined, "nose to the grindstone" kind of creature that is armed with a formidable sword for hammering opponents. Drawbacks would be references to Woody or just Pecker, like South Carolina does with the Gamecocks. A neat-looking costume is possible, however, and I donít think there is another team in the world with a woodpecker mascot.

BUFFALO BIRD: Known today as the Brown-headed Cowbird, this might be a good choice for the university administration. As you know, the cowbird brazenly lays its eggs in other birds nests then leaves for other opportunities.

HUMMINGBIRD: Now here is a good choice. Hummingbirds are absolutely unique, and they are incredibly aggressive and feisty. That they are beautiful with their iridescent feathers and the sword-like bill is also a plus as a great costume would be possible. No other school has a Hummingbird, and the IU mascot could be called the Hoosier Hummer.

Unfortunately, an avian mascot is probably not going to be the choice at IU, if there is any choice. Most IU fans and alumni I have spoken with eventually note that IU has gotten along without a mascot for most of its existence, so why do we need one now?

©Copyright 2002. Jordan Communications.